John 6:5
When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come to him, he said to Philip, From where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
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(5) The converse with Philip is also peculiar to this Gospel. (Comp. John 14:8 et seq.) The impression of the immediate antecedents of the miracle is different from, but not opposed to, that of the other narratives. They all represent the request coming from the disciples as the first step. St. John does not say it was not so They represent what took place as seen from the outer circle; he, from the point of view of those near to his Master. We may think of the group of disciples seated round Him, and of the first-called Andrew and Peter, James and John, and Philip (comp. John 1:40 et seq.) as closer to Him than the others, who come and speak to Him about the multitudes. While the wants of all are present, the wants of the individuals are not absent. There is something in the character of Philip which this occasion may test. To him is the question spoken which may yet have been an answer to their remark. For “saw a great company come,” read saw that a great multitude cometh. It is the vivid present of the crowd coming. “Whence shall we buy bread . . .?” or rather, Whence are we to buy bread? with the best MSS.

John 6:5-14. When Jesus lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come to him — That is, gathered round him; he saith unto Philip — Namely, after he had first taught the people many things, as we learn from the other evangelists, and had healed them, that had need of healing, Mark 6:34; Luke 9:11; Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? — He addressed himself to Philip particularly, because he, being a native of Bethsaida, was best acquainted with that country. This he said to prove him — To try what idea he had conceived of his divine power, and to give him an opportunity of observing what followed more attentively. Philip answered, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient, &c. — The Roman denarius, or penny, being equal to about seven pence half- penny of English money, two hundred of them were equal to about six pounds five shillings sterling, as much, probably, as their whole stock amounted to. One of his disciples saith — In answer to Jesus’s inquiring how many loaves they had, Mark 6:38; There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes — He meant which might be purchased of him; but what are they — To satisfy the hunger of so great a company? It seems, this disciple did not think on the proofs which Jesus had formerly given of his power, or did not form a just notion thereof. Jesus said, Make the men sit down — For an explanation of the circumstances of the miracle recorded in the following verses of this paragraph, see notes on Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:30-44. Then those men — Who were present upon this occasion, and were thus miraculously entertained, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, after all the wonderful cures he had wrought upon the sick that same day; said, This is of a truth that prophet — Who has been so long and impatiently expected by us, even the Messiah himself; that should come into the world — According to the prediction of Moses, Deuteronomy 18:18.6:1-14 John relates the miracle of feeding the multitude, for its reference to the following discourse. Observe the effect this miracle had upon the people. Even the common Jews expected the Messiah to come into the world, and to be a great Prophet. The Pharisees despised them as not knowing the law; but they knew most of Him who is the end of the law. Yet men may acknowledge Christ as that Prophet, and still turn a deaf ear to him.The passover - See the notes at Matthew 26:2, Matthew 26:17.

A feast of the Jews - This is one of the circumstances of explanation thrown in by John which show that he wrote for those who were unacquainted with Jewish customs.

4. passover … was nigh—but for the reason mentioned (Joh 7:1), Jesus kept away from it, remaining in Galilee. This is apparently the same history which we have met with in all the former three evangelists. Matthew 14:15-21 Mark 6:35-44 Luke 9:10-17. See the differing circumstances considered in our annotations on those chapters. The other evangelists observe, that Christ had first been preaching to them, until it was near night; and then bring in the disciples first moving him (because they had eaten nothing) to send them away to provide themselves food. This evangelist begins with some words Christ should speak to Philip. When Jesus then lift up his eyes,.... Being before engaged in close conversation with his disciples, and looking wistly and intently on them, whilst he was discoursing with them:

and saw a great company come unto him; who came on foot, over the bridge at Chammath, from Capernaum, and other cities of Galilee:

he saith unto Philip; he directed his discourse to him particularly, because he was of Bethsaida, near to which place Christ now was, and therefore might be best able to answer the following question:

whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? This, according to the other evangelists, must be said after Christ came from the mountain, and the people were come to him, and he had received them kindly, and had instructed them about the kingdom of God, and had healed the diseased among them, and expressed great compassion for them; and after the disciples had desired him to dismiss them, that they might go to the adjacent towns, and provide food for themselves; which Christ would not admit of and declared it unnecessary, and then put this question, with the following view.

{1} When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

(1) They that follow Christ sometimes hunger, but they are never without help.

John 6:5-6. According to the reading ἀγοράσωμεν, whence are we to buy? deliberative conjunctive. The fact that Jesus thus takes the initiative (as host, Ewald thinks, but this is not enough), and takes action without the prompting of any expressed need, however real, is not to be explained merely on the supposition that this is an abridgment (Lücke, Neander, Hengstenberg) of the synoptical account (Matthew 14:15); it is a discrepancy, which, however, does not destroy the fact that John was an eye-witness. It is purely arbitrary on Baur’s part to assume the design to be that of directing attention more directly to the spiritual purpose of the miracle, or, with Hilgenfeld, to regard all here as composed out of synoptical materials to prove the omnipotence of the Logos. The most simple and obvious course is to explain the representation given as flowing from the preponderating idea of the Messiah’s autonomy.[225] See on Matthew 14:15. It is an analogous case when Jesus Himself gave occasion to and introduced the miracle at Bethesda, John 5:6. It is a supplement to the narrative in the Synoptics, that Jesus discussed with Philip (John 1:44) the question of bread. Why with him? According to Bengel, because it fell to him to manage the res alimentaria, which is improbable, for Judas was treasurer, John 13:29. Judging from John 6:6, we might say it was because Philip had to be tested according to his intellectual idiosyncrasy (John 14:8 ff.), and convinced of his inability to advise. The πειράζειν does not signify the trial of faith (so usually, even Hengstenberg), but, as αὐτὸς γὰρ ᾔδει shows, was a test whether he could here suggest any expedient; and the answer of the disciple (John 6:7) conveys only the impression that he knew of none. This consciousness, howzever, was intended also to prepare the disciple, who so closely resembled Thomas, and for whom the question, therefore, had an educative purpose, the more readily to feel, by the new and coming miracle, how the power of faith in the divine agency of his Lord transcended all calculations of the intellect. This was too important a matter for Jesus with respect to that disciple, to allow us to suppose that πειράζων αὐτόν is a mere notion of John’s own, which had its origin among the transfiguring recollections of a later time (Ewald). ΗἼΔΕΙ ΤῶΝ ΜΑΘΗΤῶΝ ΤΟῪς ΜΆΛΙΣΤΑ ΔΕΟΜΈΝΟΥς ΠΛΕΊΟΝΟς ΔΙΔΑΣΚΑΛΊΑς, Theodore of Mopsuestia; in which there is nothing to suggest our attributing to Philip a “simplicité naïve,” Godet.

αὐτός] Himself, without having any need to resort to the advice of another.

[225] Amid such minor circumstances, the idea might certainly supplant the more exact historical recollection even in a John. We have no right, however, on that account, to compare Jesus, according to John’s representation, to a housewife, who, when she sees the guests coming in the distance, thinks in the first place of what she can set before them, as Hase (Tübing. Schule, p. 4) very inappropriately has done.

Vers. 7–9. For 200 denarii (about 80 Rhenish Guldens, nearly £7) we cannot get bread enough for them, etc. This amount is not named as the contents of the purse, but generally as a large sum, which nevertheless was inadequate to meet the need. Different in Mark 6:37.

John 6:8-9. A special trait of originality.

εἷς ἐκ τ. μαθητ. αὐτοῦ] may seem strange, for Philip was himself a disciple, and it is explained by Wassenbach as a gloss. It has, however, this significance; Philip had been specially asked, and after he had answered so helplessly, another from the circle of the disciples, viz. Andrew, directed a communication to the Lord, which, though made with a consciousness of helplessness, was made the instrument for the further procedure of Jesus.

παιδάριον ἕν] who had these victuals for sale as a market boy, not a servant of the company, B. Crusius. It may be read one single lad (Matthew 11:16), or even one single young slave (see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 240; Schleusner, Thes. III. p. 160). Comp. the German ein Bürschchen (a lad), as also the manner in which παιδιόν is used (Aristoph. Ran. 37; Nub. 131). In which of the two senses it stands here we cannot decide. In neither case can ἕν stand for τί, but ἕν, as well as the diminutive παιδίον, helps to describe the meagre-ness of the resource, the emphasis, however, being on the latter; and hence ἕν follows, which is not to be taken as an argument against its genuineness (Gersd. p. 420; Lücke, and most others), though in all other places, when John uses εἷς with a substantive (John 7:21, John 8:41, John 10:16, John 11:50, John 18:14, John 20:7), the numeral has the emphasis, and therefore takes the lead. But here: “one single lad,” a mere boy, who can carry little enough!

ἄρτους κριθίνους] comp. Xen. Anab. iv. 5. 31; Luc. Macrob. 5. Barley bread was eaten mainly by the poorer classes; Jdg 7:13, and Studer, in loc.; Liv. xxvii. 13; Sen. ep. xviii. 8; see also Wetstein and Kypke, I. p. 368.

ὀψάριον] denotes generally a small relish, but in particular used, as here (comp. John 21:9; John 21:13), of fish. It belongs to later Greek. See Wetstein.

εἰς τοσούτους] for so many. Comp. Xen. Anab. i. 1. 10 : εἰς δισχιλίους μισθόν.John 6:5. πολὺς ὄχλος ἔρχεται, not the same crowd as was mentioned in John 6:2, else the article would have been inserted, but a Passover caravan coming from some other direction, and probably guided to Jesus’ retirement by some of those who had followed in the first crowd. Seeing the crowd approaching, He initiates the idea of giving them a meal. The synoptic account is different.—λέγει πρὸς τὸν φίλιππον. Why to Philip? The question was put to Philip not because he happened at the moment to be nearest to Jesus (Alford); nor, as Bengel suggests, because he had charge of the commissariat, “fortasse Philippus rem alimentariam curabat inter discipulos”; nor “because he knew the country best”; nor only, as Euthymius says, ἵνα τὴν ἀπορίαν ὁμολογήσας, ἀκριβέστερον καταμάθη τοῦ μέλλοντος γενέσθαι θαύματος τὸ μέγεθος; but Cyril is right who finds the explanation in the character of Philip and in the word πειράζων of John 6:6 [γυμνάζων εἰς πίστιν τὸν μαθήτην]. Philip was apparently a matter-of-fact person (John 14:8), a quick reckoner and good man of business, and therefore perhaps more ready to rely on his own shrewd calculations than on unseen resources. This weakness Jesus gives him an opportunity of conquering, by putting the question πόθεν ἀγοράσωμεν ἄρτους; “Whence are we to buy bread?” [lit. loaves]. πόθεν may either mean “from what village,” or “from what pecuniary resources”. Cf. πόθεν γὰρ ἔσται βιοτά; Soph., Philoct., 1159.5. When Jesus then, &c.] Better, Jesus therefore having lifted up His eyes and seen that a great multitude cometh.

he saith unto Philip] Why Philip? Because he was nearest to Him; or because his forward spirit (John 14:8) needed to be convinced of its own helplessness; or because, as living on the lake (John 1:44) he would know the neighbourhood. Any or all of these suggestions may be correct. As Judas kept the bag it is not likely that Philip commonly provided food for the party. A more important question remains: “we notice that the impulse to the performance of the miracle comes in the Synoptists from the disciples; in S. John, solely from our Lord Himself.” This is difference, but not contradiction: S. John’s narrative does not preclude the possibility of the disciples having spontaneously applied to Christ for help either before or after this conversation with Philip. “For the rest the superiority in distinctness and precision is all on the side of S. John. He knows to whom the question was put; he knows exactly what Philip answered; and again the remark of Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother … Some memories are essentially pictorial; and the Apostle’s appears to have been one of these. It is wonderful with what precision every stroke is thrown in. Most minds would have become confused in reproducing events which had occurred so long ago; but there is no confusion here. The whole scene could be transferred to canvas without any difficulty.” S. pp. 121–123.

Whence shall we buy] Or, whence must we buy; the deliberative subjunctive.John 6:5. [114] Ἔρχεται, cometh) Whilst the people were coming, Jesus already provided the food for them: comp. John 6:6, “He Himself knew what He would do:” moreover He fed the people, immediately before sending them away: Matthew 14:15, “The disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away.”—Φιλιππόν, Philip) It is the part of a good teacher at times to appeal to some one, who needs it, out of the whole band of His disciples. Perhaps also Philip was the one among the disciples who had the care of the supply of provisions.

[114] τὸ πάσχα, the Passover) Preceding His passion by the interval of a year.—V. g.Verse 5. - Jesus therefore, seated with his disciples on the rising ground in full view of the lake with its shipping and its fringe of villages, and of the gathering crowds of pilgrims to the Passover, having lifted up his eyes, and having beheld that a great multitude cometh (was coming) unto him, saith. Matthew 14:14, Mark 6:34, and Luke 9:11 show that the miracle which they all, with John, prepare to describe was preceded by a day in which the Lord instructed the multitudes, "had compassion upon them," "taught them many things," "spake to them concerning the kingdom of God," "healed their sick." The first approach of the multitude was the occasion of a suggestion which Jesus made to Philip. The other evangelists record the reopening of the conversation on the same theme, stimulated by the question already put to Philip in the forenoon, and on this occasion originated by the disciples. The company arrived by the head of the lake (cf. Mark 6:33, "They ran afoot out of all the cities"); and the first compassionate thought is attributed by John to the Lord himself: Whence are we to buy (bread) loaves, that these multitudes may eat? This very question shows the intimate relations between our Lord and his disciples - the touch of nature. The identification of his interests with theirs is in the "we." Why should Philip be selected for the questioning or suggestion? Luthardt argues that it was a part of the needed education of that apostle that he should have been submitted to the searching anxiety. It is indeed added - Come (ἔρχεται)

Better, is coming. Unto Him (πρός) is rather toward.

Bread (ἄρτους)

Properly, loaves. See on Matthew 4:1.

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